From Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako, Archbishop of Khartoum and president of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference SIR – After 20 years of civil war, this new year heralded the opportunity for the people of southern Sudan to finally determine their own political future. They overwhelmingly chose to separate from the north.
Sudan will never be the same again. Now we await the formal declaration of independence of the south and the formation of two new countries in July.
During the season of Lent, as we anticipate the Easter joy of the Resurrection, the bishops of Sudan came together, mindful of our responsibility as prophets and shepherds at this crucial time, to pray and reflect together on the situation in our beloved Sudan.
But at this time of great political upheaval in north Africa and Ivory Coast, our message spreads beyond our own borders.
We call for restraint as the dramatic change in Sudan takes place. Citizens must recognise that great changes are not completed overnight; there is a process which may not always meet immediate expectations.
While there is great joy, there are also those who are saddened at the division of our country. There are fears and concerns about the future. Problems in Sudan still remain: Abyei, the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile are areas whose futures have not yet been decided; and decisions on citizenship, borders and oil remain unresolved. There are concerns about the inclusivity and transparency of the constitutional review process in southern Sudan. The conflict in Darfur continues, and there is increasing violence in the south, including the activities of the armed militia group the Lord’s Resistance Army, who are terrorising the Southern Sudanese.
We are saddened that our people have been inculturated to turn to violence when faced with disputes, whether ethnic, or over resources, or over personal or political issues.
We call on politicians and security forces of the two countries to respect human life, and our leaders to foster openness and participation and avoid exaggerated political ambition. We urge all parties, all forces and all citizens to embrace a culture of peace and to reject violence. We call upon them to turn away from division, incitement, hate speech, rumours and accusations and to resolve disputes through dialogue in a spirit of unity.
We are thankful for all the prayers of peace and letters to MPs offered by parishes in Britain and around the world, and for the support of partners like Cafod, and we ask you to continue to remember us.
We are all children of God, regardless of geographical boundaries, ethnicity, religion, culture or political affiliation, and we insist on respect for diversity. Only by this will a just and peaceful new society be built in our two new countries and around the continent.
Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you (2 Cor 13:11).
Yours faithfully, GABRIEL ZUBEIR WAKO By email